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Staff Reads April 2022

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Deb

  • Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen: 5th in the Ellery Hathaway series. Fun familiar thriller/mystery written by a local Waltham author!
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True: Fictionalized version of the author’s family history from pre-WWII Germany to present day Belmont MA. This was ok. It was interesting, but sortof one-note pace-wise… even the dramatic parts were written just matter-of-factly.
  • This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson: There are a lot of questions answered for people questioning or coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity, or parents/caregivers or curious allies. There is a clear message to use condoms. There is a very mild glancing reference to consent; this message should be louder, in my opinion. I recommend reading the print edition; the narrator of the audiobook was pretty awful… had. a. speech. cadence. like. a. robot.
  • Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs: #2 in the Bella Vista Chronicles. Part Historical-fiction, part chick-lit, this second novel in a series is mostly set in California on the Apple Orchard of an old man whose background during WWII in Denmark is further revealed.

Debora

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: Very rarely has a character stayed with me like this one; I can’t stop thinking about him. Piranesi is an odd guy, but his naivete and loving nature are also incredibly endearing. He lives in a bizarre world – the House – made up of many marble rooms filled with outsize statues depicting all manner of life, together with ocean tides that Piranesi tracks. There is one other person who lives in the world – the Other. Piranesi and the Other meet twice a week, for one hour each. The Other is dressed very nattily and carries a slim silver object, which he occasionally taps. Piranesi is in rags and shoeless. The heart of the story is Piranesi and his boundless empathy and curiosity for his world and the birds that he shares it with. His rapture at the world around him, his scientific endeavors to explore it, and his daily chores to both stay alive and honor the human bones that he tends, are wonderfully told. This is also a mystery and page turner; you won’t want to put it down.
  • The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali: This was a well told story about teenage lovers in 1953 Tehran who meet in a stationery shop. Bahman is high energy and full of hope for political change. Roya is quiet and bookish and becomes thoroughly entranced by her beau. But it’s clear from the start of the book that Roya marries an American named Walter and as the story unfolds, you learn why.
  • In Search of a Name by Marjolin Van Heemstra: Pregnant Marjolin needs a name for her soon to be born son. She wants to name him after her great uncle, who, family legend says, was a hero of the resistance in WWII Amsterdam. Marjolin’s partner, D, challenges her to find out more about the man and his story and that is the structure of the novel. Her search continues as her belly grows and she must navigate all sorts of obstacles. Both the first and last name of the main character match the author’s, but it’s never made clear how much of this story is nonfiction. This was a very quick read.

Louise:

  • Girl On The Couch:  Life Love And Confessions Of A Normal Neurotic by Lorna Martin: This book is not available in our network but can be requested via Commonwealth Catalog.  This book is a very entertaining look at Lorna Martin’s time spent in analytic psychotherapy.  Ms. Martin comes to terms with some of her insecurities and repressed emotions.  She talks about her career in journalism, her loves and losses, Ms. Martin has a great sense of humor and some of the scenes with her very staid therapist are quite funny.  She faces some of her jealousies and fears and realizes that, even though she has a very loving family, it never hurts, in fact it helps, to come to terms with what is really going on beneath the surface.
    Ms. Martin lives in Glasgow, Scotland and there are lots of fun descriptions of the pubs she visits with her girlfriends and the landscape of her city.  Some of her journalistic romps are described in detail and we see her grow and mature during the course of the book.  A fun read!
  • The Best Short Stories:  the O. Henry Prize Winners 2021: This collection, edited by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichi, contains one fabulous short story after another.  Adichi has selected an amazing group of stories by a wide range of talented writers.  She has written the introduction to this volume.  Well worth the read. The stories are diverse and very satisfying.
    Some of the stories are told by a collective group, while others include very well developed characters.  I was particularly moved by the story of a woman in India who moves to a retirement community and mourns the infrequent contact with her daughter and granddaughter who have moved to the states.
  • Nobody’s Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong: This unique and beautifully written book contains three novellas featuring strong, black females with albinism.  We meet Suzette, Maple and Agnes.  They all hail from Shreveport, Louisiana.  Suzette has led a very sheltered life, a bit too sheltered due to a traumatic incident in her childhood.  She is getting ready to create an identity for herself as an adult and break free from her overprotective parents.  Maple is faced with the death of her mother; the closest and most significant relationship of her life.  She meets a man named Chad who is dealing with the loss of his daughter’s mother.  Her relationship with Chad helps her to overcome her own grief.   Agnes has been working for low wages despite her high level of education and treated poorly by her live-in boyfriend for too long.  She returns home and comes face to face with the childhood issues and the feeling of being less than that she has suffered for too long.
    Destiny Birdsong is a writer to follow.  I heartily recommend this absorbing book.  The deft use of language, the sense of place, and the strong female characters all make this a worthwhile read.
  • Helping Me Help Myself:  One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, And A Year On The Brink Of The Comfort Zone by Beth Lisick: This book is a hoot.  If you are looking for a laugh, read this one.  Beth Lisick, a writer, decides to check out some of the famous self-help gurus.  The Richard Simmons cruise alone is worth the read.  She is very funny when describing her life, her disorganized house, the seminars that she attends, all of it.  Great if you need a light entertaining read and if you have read some of the self-help gurus yourself.

Ashley:

  • The Swallowtail Legacy: Wreck at Ada’s Reef by Michael D Beil: This middle grade mystery definitely reads like Nancy Drew written by Ashley Herring Blake, two things I like a lot. It was a fun mystery in the tradition of Nancy Drew, with a lot of heart, and well written characters.
  • The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney Plus: This tv show is the Mighty Ducks for a new generation and it is absolutely adorable.
  • Killing Eve Season 4: One of my favorite shows
  • Scream 2022: As Scream and Scream 2 are two of my very favorite movies, I was incredibly excited when I found out that there would be a 4th film coming out this year. While I enjoyed it, I honestly wish there had been more screen time for the original cast. One of the best things about these films is the mystery around who the killer is, and i think they did a great job with this one.
  • The Deepest of Secrets by Kelley Armstrong: I was glad that this series hadn’t ended with the previous book, however, a lot of this particular book felt like repetitive filler. I don’t want these stories to end, but I wish that they were more on par with the first couple books.

Cathy

  • Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry: I’m glad I read this because Lorraine Hansberry was fascinating, but I had some of the same issues I have with many biographies (I don’t like when the author makes assumptions about how the person they’re writing about was feeling about different events in their life). I also don’t think it was written in a particularly compelling way. But I’m glad it exists, and I did enjoy learning more about the influence she had on American theatre (her play A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway), her politics and activism, and I especially loved reading about her friendships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone.
  • Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King: I picked this short story collection up after loving Lily King’s novel Writers & Lovers a couple of years ago, and it has solidified her as one of my favorite contemporary authors. I just find her “slice of life” storytelling so moving. My favorite short story, “When in Dordogne,” is about a teenage boy left in the care of two house sitting college students while his parents go to France for eight weeks, and how being cared for by them in small ways changes him forever. I didn’t give the book five stars, because some of the stories weren’t as great, but the ones that were really dazzled me and I’d still highly recommend the collection overall.
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: This is a novel told in two alternating perspectives – one is the journal of sixteen-year-old Naoko in Japan, who’s dealing with bullying in school and a suicidal father. The other is Ruth (a fictionalized version of Ruth Ozeki – I love when authors do this!), who lives on a remote island in Canada and finds and becomes obsessed with Naoko’s journal when it washes up from the sea. Both narrators were great – Naoko is one of the best and funniest narrators I’ve encountered in a while, even though what she was writing about was often so dark and upsetting. And I loved reading about Ruth’s isolated home – I felt the island was as much of a character as Ruth herself. Although some magical realism elements didn’t totally work for me, I really enjoyed this reading experience overall.
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler: Sweet middle grade graphic novel about a thirteen-year-old girl tasked with running her family’s laundromat after her mother dies, who befriends a lonely ghost. Enjoyed this one a lot more for the artwork than the story itself – it’s beautifully illustrated in dreamy pinks, blues, and purples, and the drawings were lovely to get lost in for a while.
  • The Most of It by Mary Ruefle: The book description says this is poet Mary Ruefle’s first book of prose, but it felt more like a combination of prose and poetry. It’s 92 pages of little vignettes on the most random topics – there’s one piece about craving a glass of water, another about the significance of her argument with her husband about whether or not to buy a bench for their yard, and another that’s a series of diary entries on her observations of birds. Recommend to fans of whimsy!
  • For All Mankind (on Apple TV+): If you can make it past the somewhat dull first two episodes, you will be richly rewarded because the rest of the series is SO GOOD.  I haven’t been this obsessed with a show in years, and “drama about astronauts in outer space” is usually not my genre!
  • The Gilded Age (on HBO Max):  I have learned that if a show features two middle aged aunts who have completely opposite personalities, there’s a 99% chance I will love it. This show is not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination (it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Downton Abbey but set in NYC), but I’m having the best time. (For those who already watch this or watched Downton Abbey, I also recommend the hilarious McSweeney’s piece “Every Episode of a Television Show written by Julian Fellowes” by Shannon Reed.)

Laura

  • The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey: The first in a series about Perveen Mistry, a woman who joins her father’s law firm in 1920’s India. In this book, she becomes suspicious and caught up in a murder when the widows of one of her clients decide to give their inheritances to charity. I’m looking forward to getting further into this book with a strong sense of place and time as well as intriguing characters and mystery.
  • A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole: Naledi Smith assumes the e-mails she receives about being the betrothed to Prince Thabiso of Thesolo, are nothing but spam and chooses to ignore them. It turns out they’re anything but and Prince Thabiso travels to the United States to find his intended (and pretend to be a commoner). There are a lot of romance tropes in this novel and they all work! (Tropes aren’t a bad thing if they’re done well.) I love that this novel is built off the idea that annoying spam e-mails may actually be real. (PSA: They never are, so while you should enjoy this novel, please don’t start giving money to princes who send you e-mails.)
  • The 1619 Project Created by Nikole Hannah-Jones: Book version of the Pulitzer Prize winning series in The New York Times Magazine featuring essays about how the first ships in 1619 arriving in the American colonies with kidnapped and enslaved people from Africa shapes our nation’s history even today.
  • Eloise in Moscow by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight: I revisited this 1959 picture book for the first time since its re-release in 1999. A sequel to my favorite picture book, Eloise, the title character visits Moscow with her “Nanny” and her dog, Weenie (Skiperdee, her turtle, doesn’t feel well and flies home, as turtles are wont to do.) This book is definitely a product of its time could be an interesting look/read as a piece of history for those interested in mid-20th century history of the evolution of children’s literature, especially in the context of current events. There is definitely some Cold War propaganda having an influence on the text but the illustrations and some of the story are very detailed and descriptive of the city.  If I wanted to introduce a young reader to everyone’s favorite resident of the Plaza Hotel, however, I would probably just stick with the original Eloise.
  • Anxious Girls Do It Better: A Travel Guide for (Slightly Nervous) Girls on the Go by Bunny Banyai: I love to travel and I am also not a stranger to being (slightly) nervous, as this book’s subtitle says. I’m a sucker for travel guides aimed at women and this book grabbed my eye when I first saw it. This book has advice for every type of travel, coping strategies for any type of anxiety associated with travel. There is even an anxiety ratings system for various popular travel destinations. (Disney World in Florida, for example, has a low anxiety rating if you visit in the morning on a weekday in the off season. However, it scores the highest anxiety rating if you travel on weekends during peak season.) A helpful and fun guide. I can’t wait to use it.
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson: I have confession as someone who was an English major in college. I was not a fan of Emily Dickinson (turns in English major card.) I’m embarrassed to admit that all I had remembered about her is that a college friend taught me the trick that most of her poems can be sung to the tune of the theme from Gilligan’s Island. (This absolutely works, by the way.) However, I have recently come to re-visit and appreciate authors and poets that I dismissed when I was younger and Emily Dickinson is not an exception. Her life was fascinating and I realize that my dismissal of her beautiful poetry was silly and immature and am really glad that I’ve decided to give it another chance. (I fully admit that I still read her poetry with the tune of Gilligan’s Island in my head.)
  • Bridgerton, Season 2The Viscount Who Loved Me, the book for which the current season has been based, was my favorite of the Bridgerton book series by Julia Quinn and I was very excited for this new season. It did not disappoint. The show runners changed quite a bit from the book and most of it was for the better. I know the show is not historically accurate (including the clothes) and I couldn’t care less. Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley (a supporting actor on Sex Education, another great Netflix show) sizzle with chemistry as Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma this season. I’ve already watched the season twice and am not ashamed to admit that I may watch a third time. It is pure escapism.
  • Derry Girls: This is actually a re-watch for me. (I’m pretty sure I wrote about it in a previous “Staff Reads”). I’m re-watching in anticipation of the upcoming third season as well as to appreciate the range of Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan whose Clare Devlin is my favorite character.

Staff Reads March 2022

 

 

 

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Kelly

  • Going There by Katie Couric: I would love other people to read this and tell me what they think. I don’t watch morning TV, so while I know who Katie Couric is, I wasn’t too vested in her story. I picked this up randomly, and I ended up having strong feelings (and learning that I was NOT pronouncing her last name correctly. It’s “kerr-ic” not “core-ic”.) On one hand, it’s her life story and it’s not fair for me to judge her. Some parts were interesting and some parts were really moving and honest. Overall, I thought Katie needed a better editor and timing for this book. Her opinions and the celebrity excess she shares didn’t resonate with me.
  • The Family Firm: A Data Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years by Emily Oster: I loved this book. I think it speaks to the hyper-organized librarian side of me and the parent side of me as we navigate kindergarten for the first time this year. It’s a how-to guide in some ways, but also a great read about data and what we think we know about childhood. 
  • Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell: This is an amazing book all about the idea of cults and how they work, both the dangerous (TW: suicide) and the more beneficial (Cross Fit). It’s super fascinating and engaging. It’s well written and reads easily, considering the topic. 
  • Pig the Stinker by Aaron Blabey and The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak: My kids (3 and 6) laughed and laughed at these books. We read them so many times, our whole family has them memorized and quotes them regularly. 

Dana

Debora

  • The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake: Main character, Nora Beady, was raised by a surgeon in early 1800s London after her parents died. Dr. Horace Croft teaches her everything he knows about medicine. There’s one hitch: King Henry VIII has banned women from the field. Nora’s secret is blown when a surgical resident, Daniel Gibson, joins the clinic. The plot thickens when Nora makes a new medical discovery and her life, as well as the careers of the doctors around her are imperiled. Yes, there’s a love story here, but the overriding message is one of a woman striving to function autonomously and pursuing her goals. Great historical fiction read
  • White Bird by R.J. Palacio: This is a graphic novel and a very quick read. Set in WWII (my go to!), it tells the story of young Sara, a Jewish girl who is hidden in a family’s barn during the Nazi occupation of France. Sara becomes friends with the family’s son, Julian, a boy she once shunned in her classroom. The story is sweet, poignant, and at times, terrifying. Beautiful graphics. Highly recommend. 
  • Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson: I’ve read a lot of WWII fiction, but never a book written by a Black author about Black characters. Grace Steele and Eliza Jones are two young Black women who join the segregated Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to serve their country. In addition to the usual hassles of army life, they must also deal with racism. They and their colleagues work hard to create the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion to sort mountains (literally, a plane hanger full) of undelivered mail, often addressed to first names only. The novel is based on the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II. Fantastic read
  • Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: This is a best selling WWII novel, but it took me a while to decide to read it. I’m glad I did. At its heart, it’s a love story between the eponymous title character, Lale, and another prisoner Gita. Based on a true story, it’s compelling and brutal, vivid and terrifying. Thoroughly engrossing story. 
  • Kew Gardens Girls by Posy Lovell: Based in London during WWI, this tells the story of the women who were hired to work at Kew Gardens, after the male staff went off to war. The novel creates a believable world centered on Louisa and Ivy, each with their own important back stories and personalities. Sexism, suffragettes, illiteracy, domestic violence, out of wedlock pregnancy, and conscientious objection all play their part to create a lovely story. 
  • Extraordinary Times, volumes 1 & 2 by Maria Photinakis: I read these two slim works because we hosted the author, Waltham resident Maria Photinakis. What an absolute treat. Maria drew comics and wrote a running commentary to create a narrative of her time during the pandemic, at home with her husband and a young child. Volume I takes you back to the early days of the pandemic when we were afraid to leave our homes and volume 2 captures the feeling of our first, vaccinated, tentative steps back into the world. I can’t recommend these highly enough – I hope everyone reads them!
  • Conjure Women by Afia Atakora: I read this because we hosted the author for a talk on Wednesday, March 9 and ended up just loving it. Atakora’s most compelling character, Rue, is both complex and fascinating. The story goes back and forth in time between the pre and post-Civil War South with Rue, Rue’s mother, May Belle, and the master’s daughter, Varina, the main characters. Read it for its epic scope and realistic portrayal of what life was like for people enslaved on plantations.
  • Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community by Vanessa Holden: We hosted this author as part of our A Year of Black History series and our speaker was very compelling. Using mostly court records and first person narratives, Holden describes the community of women and children who aided Nat Turner’s rebellion. The video will be deleted at the end of March. 
  • We Share the Same Sky by Rachael Cerrotti: We’re hosting this author (and podcaster!) on Wednesday, March 16. Her book tells an amazing story, both of her grandmother’s escape from the Nazis and her own journey of love. 
  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of the women whose lives were greatly disrupted, this was a fantastic read. It tells the story of several women of Troy, including the often hilarious goddesses who started the whole war. Highly recommend. 
  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: This was a random choice and it did not disappoint. It tells the story of Ana, the (likely) fictional wife of Jesus. Ana is an intelligent, often defiant daughter who marries the man she loves, Jesus, instead of the man her parents choose for her. She’s drawn to his bold ideas and spiritual bent. As a writer, she yearns to have her stories documented and remembered. The prose is lyrical and inviting, the story compelling at every turn. 

Ashley

  • The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh: I like a creepy gothic haunting, but this was a little slow for me. The main character also kept jumping to conclusions, which I found annoying. 
  • Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming-of-Age Story by Stacey Chomiak: This was intensely relatable to me as a lesbian who grew up in a fundamentalist christian household in the nineties. Every detail was like my life. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and I related hard. 
  • Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee: This was an incredibly moving middle grade novel about a queer 13 year old girl who just wants to attend a young singer songwrite clss, but her single mom can’t afford it. 
  • The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke: An interesting mystery, but I was a little disappointed by the science fiction twist at the end. 
  • The Girl in the Woods on Paramount +: You can definitely tell that this show was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (one of my favorites!) I like horror, not much scares me, but this show hit my creepy buttons. There was one episode I had to keep pausing. It has a great diverse cast, and an interesting plot. 
  • Single All the Way on Netflix: I love a cheesy Christmas movie. Thanks Hallmark! And now we’re finally getting the diverse stories we deserve, like this cute gay one. 
  • Under the Christmas Tree on Lifetime: A real lesbian “Hallmark” style Christmas movie!

Aaron

  • Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit: Solnit is one of my favorite authors (her The Faraway Nearby is in my personal pantheon) and an essential essayist for these times. In this book, she takes as starting point the fact that George Orwell (the author) planted roses in his garden. Solnit then investigates what it means to nourish small beauty against the backdrop of unjust, violent history, examining both the times Orwell lived in and her/our own. This is a book for artists, gardeners, parents, activists, environmentalists, or anyone else who creates space in this chaotic, dark world for love and unnecessary beauty.
  • Dopesick (Hulu) – A compelling, character-driven look at some of the lives affected by Oxycontin and an overview of how the Sackler family/Purdue pharma knowingly seeded our current crisis. It’s always nice to see Michael Keaton on screen, and I was moved by the arc of a religious Appalachian family whose daughter is injured in the mines and life spirals when she becomes addicted. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Richard Sackler as a kind of Fredo Corleone but with Vito’s voice. 
  • Encanto (Disney+) and soundtrack (Hoopla): A family story with deep emotional intelligence and the kind of meticulous attention to cultural details now commonplace in animated/childrens’ filmmaking. Of course, we love the music. Now if we could just get it out of our heads. 
  • The Edge of Sports podcast with Dave Zirin (from The Nation magazine) – A weekly podcast at “the intersection of sports and politics.” I don’t listen every week, but when Dave Zirin is hitting on all cylinders, he really nails why sports can provide a unique lens into our societal inequities and be a platform for hope, for setting our collective sights higher. Recent episodes have included his takes on Barry Bonds’ exclusion from the Hall of Fame and the lawsuit brought by Brian Flores. Dave mercilessly targets hypocrisy and susses out the core of issues with language that’s a lot of fun–and doesn’t pull any punches.

Deb

  • Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the first in the Annalisa Vega series by this local Waltham author with whom I went to school. There’s a second in this series due out later this year. It’s so very cool to know a successful author of books I like to read! This series takes place in Chicago and is good crime/detective/mystery/thriller-type stuff.
  • Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting written and narrated by Lisa Genova: This nonfiction is about the science of remembering, why we forget and a few strategies for keeping it together by the author of Still Alice
  • The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs: Part Historical-fiction, part chick-lit, this first novel in a series is mostly set in California on the Apple Orchard of an old man whose background during WWII in Denmark is revealed.
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and narrated by Steven Crossley: This is a quirky, humorous adventure story, with a dash of history mixed in, set in Sweden and very similar to A Man Called Ove by Frederik Bachman. If you liked Ove, I think you’ll like Allan Karlsson as well.
  • How To Stop Time by Matt Haig and narrated by Mark Meadows: This almost-historical-fiction meets time-travel physics novel has many elements in common with The Midnight Library also by Matt Haig. The story is good (not as great as Midnight library, but good). There’s an annoying character that makes you  wonder ”Who made you the boss of the world?!?”
  • In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn: This is a really interesting study in human nature. When a crisis happens, do you look out for others or do you look out for yourself? Told from the perspective of the 16-yo girl who dies in the crisis (not a spoiler… it’s the whole premise of the book) her omniscient perspective is unique. Really enjoyable! My colleague, Dana, listed it as a Favorite of 2021 (See the previous Staff Reads blog post) and she hasn’t steered me wrong before!
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver Narrated by M.W. Wilson: Non-binary coming-of-age story. Likable characters stumbling through high school. Pretty similar to Felix Ever After.
  • The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed and narrated by Kiersey Clemons: Teen fiction centered around a HS girl from LA during the Rodney King riots. Good story. Good characters. Dialog seemed a little contemporary for 1992, but overall, quite enjoyable. Too bad we’re still having many of the issues brought up.
  • The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel and narrated by Robin Eller, Lisa Flanagan, Madeleine Maby: Historical fiction about a vineyard in France during WWII. I struggle with dishonesty from characters in the books I read. I always feel that everyone would have a much easier time if they weren’t keeping secrets, even though I realize this makes for a less-interesting plot. This is true of this story even though I enjoyed it. There were 2 characters that frustrated me a bit and by the end it became clear why!
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune: Really fun British chick-lit. There were 2 narrators: one that voiced the female character and one that voiced the male side of the story. Love the 2 different voices… Leon’s speech cadence and total lack of using any pronouns and articles was so amusing!
  • Dear Justyce by Nic Stone and narrated by Dion Graham: Second in a series after Dear Martin, this is a bit of a spinoff of a character from the first book. Incarcerated teen Quan is telling his tale through letters and flashbacks to Justyce, the main character of Dear Martin.  This would appeal to readers of Jason Reynolds or Angie Thomas.
  • A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi and narrated by Priya Ayyar: Set one year after 9/11, this follows 16 year-old Muslim girl through high school where she tries to shake off stereotypes. Part coming-of-age story and part historical fiction. More likable characters stumbling through high school with some interesting perspectives shared.

Cathy

  • There Should Be Flowers by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza: This is a beautiful, heartbreaking poetry collection. I read a bunch of these poems over and over. Content warnings for transphobia and depression.
  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: I thought this was a really engaging, well-written novel but I also often felt squeamish reading fiction that borrows so heavily from the life of a real person who is still around (this book is inspired by former First Lady Laura Bush), especially because there are a few specific and undoubtedly traumatizing events from her life that were fictionalized. I possibly would have put it down if I’d read a physical copy instead of listening to the audiobook (Kimberly Farr was a great narrator! So great in fact that it probably added to my discomfort because I kept having to remind myself that this was a novel and not a memoir!).
  • A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll: I adored this one! This middle-grade novel is about eleven-year-old Addie who is singled out by her teacher and classmates because she’s autistic. A lot of the novel explores what that means for her and the way she processes her thoughts and emotions. When she learns about witch trials that happened in her Scottish village, she begins a campaign to install a memorial that attones for what was done to them. This is a sensitive, empowering novel that I recommend to everyone! Also, McNicoll is a neurodivergent author, and it was evident that she was drawing from real-life expertise, which made it that much more of an enriching reading experience. I learned a lot from Addie and I can’t wait to read everything else McNicoll writes.
  • Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig: This was a phenomenal memoir in essays in which Taussig shares what it’s been like for her to navigate society in a wheelchair. The essays cover a variety of topics, including ableism and accessibility, dating and relationships, portrayals of disability in the media, and her experiences teaching about disability to young people. It was so articulate, educational, and accessible. I also loved how much she emphasized that increasing accessibility has the potential to make life easier, in large and small ways, for everyone, not just people with disabilities (for example, she poses the question: What opportunities for play and creative expression would open up for *all* children if we made playgrounds more accessible to kids with disabilities?) It’s such a refreshing and necessary framework. I really hope more people pick this one up.
  • The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Deesha Philyaw did so much in such a brief short story collection. Every sentence felt like it needed to be there. These stories, which are all about the inner lives of Black women of various ages who have some connection to the church, are complex and nuanced. Pretty much all of the women live in a state of moral ambiguity as they pursue their desires and navigate relationships, which I loved. I also highly recommend the audiobook – I’m really impressed by Janina Edwards’ ability to bring all of the characters to life in such distinct ways. 
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich: This novel is about a thirteen-year-old boy named Joe and his attempts to seek justice after his mother is sexually assaulted in their Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It’s a powerful story that brings to light the horrifying statistics of violence against indigenous women in the United States, as well as the seemingly endless legal challenges faced by those trying to seek justice while living on reservations, due to disputes over sovereignty and jurisdiction. But it’s also a story of teen boys being teen boys through it all. One of my favorite things in fiction is when an author really captures what it’s like to be a kid, and I really think Erdrich knocked it out of the park, which is so rare. The feelings Joe expresses, often but not always pertaining to the big issues he’s dealing with, instantly brought me back to what it felt like to be 13 and made the overall reading experience so impactful. This was a 5-star read!
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: VERY quick listen on audio (not even 2 hours if I remember correctly?) that packs a punch. It’s a young adult novel in verse about a teen boy who’s on his way to kill the guy he thinks shot and killed his older brother. The whole novel takes place in the 60 seconds he’s on the elevator, during which he encounters a different person from his past on each floor. I love that Jason Reynolds narrates the audiobook himself. This was my first time reading one of his books and not my last!
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: This novel follows a neuroscience graduate student named Gifty as she conducts lab experiments while her mother, who has depression, stays with her. It’s a novel about grief, as Gifty’s brother died of a heroin overdose when she was a child. This tragedy largely influenced her life path – she is obsessed with what causes addiction and how her line of work could potentially help people suffering. It’s also so much about Gifty’s reckoning with her religious upbringing, and how that clashes with (or is sometimes in unexpected and harmonious conversation with) the scientific part of her mind. This book deeply resonated with me for many reasons, and I ended up loving it more than her first novel, Homegoing (which is also great!).
  • Station Eleven (Show): Warning that this show starts with a virus killing 99.9% of civilization (the first episode is the toughest!). I totally understand why someone would want to avoid pandemic content right now, but honestly for me, watching a show about a group of people surviving a worst case scenario, accepting their new normal, and making something beautiful out of it was so comforting. One of the most moving tv watching experiences I’ve had in years. I sobbed during the final episode! 
  • Hacks (TV Show): I loved Jean Smart in Mare of Easttown, so I had to watch her in Hacks next. This show is about a Gen Z comedy writer and a legendary standup comedian (somewhat reminiscent of Joan Rivers?) whose life circumstances force them to work together. It was great.
  • Abbott Elementary: Funniest show on TV right now! It makes me so happy. Quinta Brunson is a genius and the cast has no weak links. I want 20 more seasons, please.

Louise

Laura

  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris: Compelling psychology thriller set against the backdrop of the publishing industry. Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner publishing and is happy to bond with Hazel, when she’s finally hired. However, when Nella starts to become suspicious and receives anonymous threatening notes, things start to unravel.
  • If You Ask Me by Betty White, read by the author: Series of short vignettes and words of wisdom from the late Golden Girl. It was nice to hear White’s voice so soon after her death.
  • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson: Beautiful family story about estranged siblings, Byron and Benny, their late mother’s traditional Caribbean Black Cake, and a parallel story about a woman leaving behind a potential abusive marriage and a murder charge. 
  • All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business by Mel Brooks, read by the author: Mel Brooks! The Memoir! (disappointingly not The Lunchbox!) Fun romp through Mel Brooks’s life and career. I loved hearing him talk about how the original The Producers came about, as it’s one of my favorite movies. Some complimentary words about some members of Hollywood who were later revealed to be problematic are a little hard to take in some places.
  • A Lot like Adiós by Alexis Daria: Steamy romance taking place in the same universe as You Had Me at Hola. I loved the fact that the two main characters first bond as teenagers, writing fan fiction for a fictional science fiction television show.
  • Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno, read by the author: Rita can do no wrong, in my eyes. I loved listening to this honest and, at times, heartbreaking memoir. It’s distressing to hear how she was treated in Hollywood as one of the few Latin-American actors. No flaws in this book, except for the fact it’s from 2011, so nothing about the recent West Side Story or the reboot of One Day at a Time.
  • A Lowcountry Bride by Preslaysa Williams: Lovely romance that takes place amongst the backdrop and aftermath of the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Despite the sad setup, this is a loving and heartwarming family story full of hope.
  • A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll: Addie, who is on the Autism spectrum, finds herself relating to the story of witch trials in her small Scottish town, knowing all too well about being persecuted for who she is and what others may not understand. I loved this middle grade novel and thought it did such a wonderful job at treating the topic with respect and sensitivity. 
  • West Side Story (2021)I loved this remake! I’m a big fan of West Side Story, in general, but know that it’s not without faults, especially the 1961 film. This remake does a lot to correct them, including hiring actors who are Latinx to play the members of the Sharks and their friends and family. It was also refreshing listening to actual singers and Broadway talent singing and performing. (I want Bernardo’s David Alvarez and Riff’s Mike Faist to work on another musical together. Ariana DeBose as Anita was perfect). And Rita Moreno (aka 1961’s “Anita”) as new character, Valentina (the widow of the original show and movie’s “Doc”) brings a gravitas to the film. 
  • Spiderman: No Way Home: I had a good time with this third installment in the MCU Spiderman series. This was fan service done right. (I’m looking at you, Ghostbusters: Afterlife)
  • Abbott Elementary: I love this show about an elementary school in Philadelphia, created by and starring Quinta Brunson as an idealistic second grader teacher. This is one of the few times that I think the mockumentary sitcom style works well.
  • The Gilded Age: I really really want to like this show. The majority of the cast is from the Broadway/musical world (Audra McDonald, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Denée Benton, Kelli O’Hara, Carrie Coon, just to name a few) and the acting is very good but it just isn’t working for me. The character development in the writing is pretty one dimensional (IE, Cynthia Nixon plays a character whose one trait is that she’s “sweet”. She’s a good actress so it’s not a reflection of her.) The scenery is pretty so I’m sticking with it, for now.
  • The Book of Boba FettTemuera Morrison is a very good actor and does the best he can with the most overrated character in Star Wars. (Laura quickly runs and hides from die hard Star Wars fans.) This show didn’t do anything for me, until it suddenly turned into The Mandalorian Season 2.5 (Spoiler alert, I guess.)

Tax Filing Season 2022/ Temporada de declaración de impuestos 2022

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again! Please use our online resource guide to help you through tax season.

¡Es esa época del año otra vez! Utilice nuestra guía de recursos en línea para ayudarlo durante la temporada de impuestos.

Obtaining Tax Forms/Cómo obtener formularios de impuestos

  • The Waltham Public Library has a limited supply of IRS Form 1040/1040 SR and instruction booklets. They are located on the ground floor, across from the ground floor restroom. Due to limited quantities, we ask that patrons only take what they need for their own taxes. If you need additional forms, including the Massachusetts Tax Forms, please see below.
  • La Biblioteca Pública de Waltham tiene un suministro limitado de formularios IRS 1040/1040 SR y folletos de instrucciones. Están ubicados en la planta baja, frente al baño. Debido a las cantidades limitadas, tome formularios para sus propios impuestos. Si necesita más formularios, incluidos los formularios de impuestos de Massachusetts, consulte a continuación.
  • Obtain Federal forms from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website/Formularios federales del sitio web del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS)
  • Obtain Massachusetts forms from the Department of Revenue (DOR) website/Formularios de Massachusetts del sitio web del Departamento de Ingresos (DOR)
  • Tax Forms for Other States/Formularios de impuestos de otros estados
  • Contact the United States IRS by phone to request federal forms/Comuníquese con el IRS para solicitar formularios federales: 1-844-545-5640
  • Contact the Massachusetts DOR by phone to request state forms/Póngase en contacto con el DOR de Massachusetts por teléfono para solicitar formularios estatales: 617-887-6367 or 800-392-6089
  • To print out forms at the library:
    • Using your own device: Find the form you need online and follow the directions for wireless printing at the library. 
    • Con tu propio dispositivo: Busque el formulario que necesita en línea y siga las instrucciones para la impresión inalámbrica en la biblioteca. (Elija español para la traducción de la página)
    • Staff Help: Library Staff can print out forms on demand at the Reference/Circulation Desk on the First Floor (next to the computers). Patrons must know exact form number. (Forms only and instructions 10 pages or fewer.) Please Note: Library staff members are not authorized by revenue agencies to give tax advice or determine the correct form to match specific needs.
    • Ayuda de un miembro del personal de la biblioteca: El personal de la biblioteca puede imprimir formularios a pedido en el mostrador de referencia/circulación en el primer piso (junto a las computadoras). Los usuarios deben conocer el número de formulario exacto. (Solo formularios e instrucciones de 10 páginas o menos). Tenga en cuenta: las agencias de ingresos no autorizan a los miembros del personal de la biblioteca a brindar asesoramiento fiscal ni a determinar el formulario correcto para satisfacer sus necesidades específicas.

Where and How to File Tax Returns/Dónde y cómo presentar declaraciones de impuestos

Local Offices for Tax Agencies/Oficinas de la Agencia Tributaria

Free Tax Help/Ayuda tributaria gratuita

Volunteer in Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

  • According to the IRS: “The VITA program has operated for over 50 years, offering free tax help to: People who generally make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.”
  • Según el IRS: “El programa de VITA ha operado por más de 50 años, ofreciendo ayuda tributaria gratuita a las personas que necesiten asistencia con la preparación de sus propias declaraciones de impuestos y que sean: Personas que generalmente tienen $57,000 o menos en ingresos, personas que tienen incapacidades, y personas que tienen dominio limitado del inglés.
    • VITA Locations/Ubicaciones
      • Bentley University
        175 Forest Street
        Waltham, MA 02452
        781-891-2000
        Appointment Only/Sólo cita
        English/Español
        The program will run from Tuesday, February 15 through Thursday, April 14. Online tax preparation will be held on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. In-person tax preparation will be held on Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Bentley University.
        El programa se ofrecerá del martes 15 de febrero hasta el jueves 14 de abril. La preparación para la declaración impuestos en línea, serán los domingos de 4:00PM a 8:00PM y los jueves de 6:30PM a 8:30PM. Asimismo, La preparación para la declaración impuestos en persona tomará lugar los martes de 6:30PM a 8:30PM en la Universidad Bentley. Para asistencia en español con la ayuda de un hablante nativo, este formato será ofrecido los jueves de 6:30 PM a 8:30 PM.
      • Other Locations Within 10 miles/Ubicaciones de VITA dentro de las 10 millas 

AARP 

  • According to the AARP: “AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides tax assistance free of charge, with a special focus on taxpayers who are over the age of 50 or have low-to-moderate income./Tax-Aide de la Fundación AARP brinda asistencia tributaria gratuita, con un enfoque especial en los contribuyentes mayores de 50 años o con ingresos bajos a moderados.”
  • AARP Tax Aide Locations/Ubicaciones de asistentes de impuestos de AARP
    • Waltham Council on Aging/William F. Stanley Senior Center
      488 Main Street
      Waltham, MA 02452
      781-314-3499
      This free Federal and State tax preparation is provided to local residents by trained, certified AARP volunteers. The program mission is to assist older residents with low to moderate income. Returns cannot be prepared if you have rental income (including Airbnb), trust income, partnerships, or business income beyond simple self-employment. Do not sign-up for a February appointment if you have a brokerage account which may not send out tax forms until March. Tax appointments will be offered on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday beginning February 7 – April 12. A Spanish speaking preparer is available on certain days & times. Call 781-314-3499 for an appointment.
      Esta preparación gratuita de impuestos federales y estatales es proporcionada a los residentes locales por voluntarios capacitados y certificados de AARP. La misión del programa es ayudar a los residentes mayores con ingresos bajos a moderados. Las devoluciones no se pueden preparar si tiene ingresos por alquiler (incluido Airbnb), ingresos por fideicomisos, sociedades o ingresos comerciales más allá del simple trabajo por cuenta propia. No se registre para una cita de febrero si tiene una cuenta de corretaje que no puede enviar formularios de impuestos hasta marzo. Las citas de impuestos se ofrecerán los lunes, martes y viernes a partir del 7 de Febrero al 12 de Abril. Un preparador de habla hispana está disponible en ciertos días y horarios. Llama al 781314-3499 para una cita.
    • Other Locations/Otras ubicaciones

Other Resources/Otros recursos

WPL Staff Favorites in 2021

In 2021, the staff of the Waltham Public Library enjoyed a lot of books, movies, television, music, and podcasts! Here is what we enjoyed this past year.

Books | Movies | TV Shows | Podcasts | Music

Favorite Books

Dana

Kelly

Amber

Claire

Ashley

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

Deb

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Movies

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Claire

Ashley

  • Unpregnant

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

  • Dune (2021)

Molly

Janet

Seana

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

Favorite TV Shows

Dana

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Ashley

  • The Girl in the Woods
  • Midnight Mass
  • We’re Here
  • Mare of Easttown

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

  • Only Murders in the Building

Victoria

Aaron

  • Ted Lasso

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Podcasts

Dana

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Ashley

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Music

Search for music through our subscriptions to Freegal or Hoopla. Search Music CDs through the Minuteman Library Network catalog or app. 

Dana

  • Wild Dreams by Westlife
  • Spectrum by Westlife

Luke

  • Dry Cleaning
  • Do Nothings
  • Spirit of the Beehive

Kelly

  • Dua Lipa
  • A least favorite! The new Adele song

Amber

  • Olivia Rodrigo

Ashley

  • Pony and Show Pony by Orville Peck
  • Look Long by The Indigo Girls

Tessa

  • Ashlynn by Ashe

Molly

  • Leave the Bones by Lakou Mizik

Janet

  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Aaron

  • My toddler singing

Laura

  • Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Hoopla Movies Filmed in Massachusetts

Did you know we have hundreds of movies available for you to stream on your phone, computer, or smart TV? Here is a small sample of movies — all filmed in Massachusetts! To get started, visit hoopladigital.com and follow the prompts. Please note that this service is available to Waltham residents.

Christmas on Ice
Filmed in Shrewsbury and Worcester

Christmas a la Mode
Filmed in Sutton and Worcester

A Snow White Christmas
Filmed in Ayer, Bolton, Groton, Shirley, and Sudbury

Long Lost Daughter
Filmed in Ayer, Devens, and Groton

Beach House
Filmed in Truro and Wellfleet

The Spruces and the Pines
Filmed in Ayer, Bolton, Stow, and Townsend

How to Train Your Husband
Filmed in Boston and Quincy

The House Sitter
Filmed in Easton and Sharon

The March Sisters at Christmas
Filmed in Grafton and Worcester

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot
Filmed in Gill, Greenfield, Lenox, Montague, and Sunderland

A Quiet Passion
Filmed in Amherst and Hadley

Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket
Filmed in Nantucket

Chimera Strain
Filmed in Fitchburg and Gardner

The Spirit of Christmas
Filmed in Barre, Westwood, Worcester, and Wrentham

posted by Janet

Staff Reads November/December 2021

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Debora

  • Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim: Curious about life in North Korea? This book’s for you. Journalist Suki Kim went undercover as an English teacher in North Korea to report on what life is like for people living in the super isolated country. Her observations are compelling and often odd: people routinely cut the grass using scissors; universities countrywide close down so that students can be used as construction workers; students are not allowed to be alone with their English teachers – or at all. Kim is isolated and lonely – and always watched.
  • The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon by Marcy McCreary: I don’t usually read mysteries, but I read this one because we hosted the author (see the YouTube livestream here: Disappearance of Trudy Solomon). The book is a page turner, with a complex plot and cast of characters to hold your interest. Susan Ford is a detective in the same small town police department where her dad worked in the 1970s. When skeletal remains are found near an old Catskills hotel, Susan begins investigating, with the help of her father. Waltham makes a cameo appearance when Susan and her father travel around to track down old witnesses.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: I loved this! It’s even better than Weir’s first book, The Martian. The main character, Ryland Grace, is basically the same guy we met in The Martian, but his dilemma is far more terrifying. He wakes up all alone in a space capsule, with no memory of how he got there. As his memory slowly returns, he realizes it’s his job to save Earth from extinction. The story takes an unexpected turn that keeps you reading. There is both a sweetness to the story and a terrifying metaphor around climate change. For science nerds and adventure readers alike.
  • The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel: I love historical fiction set in two time periods and this one did not disappoint. Set in WWII, in the vineyards of France, the story centers around Ines, her husband Michel, and Celine, wife of the vineyard’s chef de cave. Nazi resistance, love triangles, and poor choices along the way make for a very human and realistic story. The present day story features Liv and her French grandmother. This part of the novel is slightly less enjoyable as the author strings along the reader in ways that just aren’t plausible. That said, the final resolution of the story is hugely enjoyable and compelling.

Louise

  • Milk Fed by Melissa Broder: “It didn’t matter where I lived-Mid-City, Mid-Wilshire, or Miracle Mile.  It didn’t matter where I worked; one Hollywood bull#&it factory was equal to any other.  All that mattered was what I ate, when I ate, and how I ate it.”  This is the first paragraph of this captivating novel by Melissa Broder.  The main character, Rachel, is focused on her food intake above all else.  Things change for her when she meets Miriam, who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop.
    Miriam actually gives Rachel toppings that are not low fat and Rachel dares to eat them.  This book is about appetites; for food, for love, and for life.  The writing is beautiful (dare I say delicious), and I found this novel to be uplifting, witty and worth reading.  I am literally hungry to read more novels by Melissa Broder.
  • Thin Girls by Diana Clarke : Lily and Rose are twins.  They are so bonded that they can literally taste each other’s feelings.  They grow up in a rather neglectful home and rely on each other for comfort.  Their paths diverge when Rose decides to restrict her eating in the same way as the popular girl at school, Jemima does.  Lily begins to binge eat when Rose starts dieting.  Rose ends up in a facility for anorexic young women.  When she senses that her sister Lily is in big trouble, dating a married man who spells trouble, she gets out of the facility and works to save her sister.
    This is a beautifully written novel and Diana Clarke is an author to pay attention too.  Trigger warning:  This book goes into detail about eating disorders, there is also an abusive relationship.  If that is okay, please read this book.
  • The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell : Did you enjoy the PBS series Upstairs, Downstairs?  Do you enjoy novels about the rich versus the not so rich?  Do you like a dose of wit with your novels?  If you answered yes to these questions, this book is a very good bet for you. This novel is told through the point of view of Martin, the superintendent of an Upper West-Side Coop and his daughter, Ruby.
    Ruby has amassed a great deal of debt from her college education and needs to move back home in order to make ends meet.  This means living in the basement apartment that her father and mother live in.  Her friend, Caroline, lives upstairs.  Those who live upstairs are awash in money; trust funds, family wealth, and the like.  The contrast is quite something and this book shows us in a loving and humorous way Ruby and Martin’s struggle to come to terms with the arc of their lives.
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True : You can watch the Waltham Public Library’s interview with Sylvia True here  This book is a gem that explores three generations of mental illness from Nazi Germany to Belmont in the 1980s.  The novel is based on a true story and I could not put this book down.  If you like strong women who are able to get through very difficult situations in your fiction, this is the book for you.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia  : One of my colleagues recommended this book to me and I am so glad that he did.  This is perfect October reading.  (However, this is also perfect reading for anytime).  Moreno-Garcia weaves a tale that is gothic bordering on horror but it is actually fun to read.  Our main character’s cousin has married someone with whom she is not doing well and Noemi is sent to check on the situation.  Yikes!  She meets the creepiest family ever but Noemi is incredibly strong and feisty and, well, read this book to find out the details.
  • The Book of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki: This book is over five hundred pages long and I was still very sorry when it ended.  Ozeki is a master at creating a “novel” form of novel.  The main characters in this book are:  Annabelle, who has lost her husband Kenji in a freak accident; Benny, her son, and the book.  Yes, the book is a character in this story and it is telling Benny’s story.  After Kenji dies, Annabelle becomes a hoarder and Benny starts hearing voices.  First, he hears his father’s voice but later, he hears voices everywhere he turns.  Even objects seem to be speaking to him.
    Benny finds that things quiet down when he goes to the public library where books speak in hushed tones, respecting the decorum that the library demands.  This book is about the importance of connection for healing.  It is about grief.  I highly recommend this creative and enthralling book.
  • The Way She Feels: My Life on the Borderline in Pictures and Pieces by Courtney Cook: This is one of the many graphic novels that really tell a true and heartfelt story in a model that works perfectly.  Courtney Cook was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and this graphic novel tells about her journey towards wellness.  This is a quick and moving read, with some difficult moments, but also some humor.  Trigger Warning:  there is mention of self harm in this book.
  • Self Care by Leigh Stein: This parodic novel is a hoot.  It is taking a look at instagram influencers and websites such as Goop.  Devin and Marin have started a site called Richual that is devoted to self care.  Devin is the picture perfect image of who everyone wants to be.  She is “perfectly” toned, she wears all the right clothing.  She is the image of “self care”.  On the other hand, she suffers from orthorexia, a condition in which one is obsessed with only eating what is perfect.  She is independently wealthy.
    Marin has some serious college loans, drinks a little too much, and has a penchant for junk food.  She is trying to love herself just as she is.
    This book looks at the influencer culture, the “Self Care Industrial Complex”, the complications of capitalism and its influence on self care where products are being sold.  I loved this book.
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: This book takes place over three days.  Winn Van Meter is heading to his family’s summer home on the pristine island of Waskek in New England.  His daughter, Daphne, is getting married.  She is also heavily pregnant.  Winn is attracted to her friend, Agatha and is trying to squelch this feeling.  His other daughter, Livia, has been jilted by a boy and she had to have an abortion after becoming pregnant during their relationship.
    Shipstead is magnificent at  creating the lives of old money families, their trials and tribulations, their mores, their gin drinking, even their names….Oatsie, Bitsie, Winn Van Meter, Maude, you get the picture.
    This novel is very entertaining.  Shipstead knows her people and the novel is a fun read…I really enjoyed the scenes where Winn is cooking the lobster dinner for his guests…lots of vivid detail.

Ashley

Cathy

  • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera : This novel is about a young girl named Makina who is sent across the border from Mexico to the U.S. to find her brother and deliver a message. The prose is sparse and lyrical – it sort of felt like I was reading a fable. Makina reminded me of Mattie Ross from True Grit – well respected for her toughness but far too young to bear so much of the weight of the world on her shoulders. Yuri Herrera has a beautiful way with words and certain passages, particularly the ones about recent migrants navigating their use of Spanish and English languages, will stay with me for a long time.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell : A fictionalized portrayal of the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and how it affected his family and possibly led to the writing of the play Hamlet. It took a while to get into it (found the writing a little flowery) but at about the halfway point, I couldn’t put it down until the end. However, it hasn’t really stayed with me since finishing it two weeks ago.
  • All’s Well by Mona Awad: I was excited to read this after really enjoying Mona Awad’s delightfully strange previous novel, Bunny. In this novel, we follow Miranda, a former actress who fell off the stage while performing and was forced to leave her career due to debilitating chronic pain. She now teaches college theatre, where she is disrespected and ignored as she tries to direct a production of All’s Well That Ends Well with a less than enthusiastic group of students and staff. We also follow her attempts to get healthcare, during which her pain is never believed. It’s bleak and hard to read at times, but then one day she meets three men at a bar and things begin to change (and get really, really weird). This book is full of dark and twisted humor, which I thought was fun, but it’s definitely not the kind of novel I’d recommend to everyone!
  • The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante: I picked this up immediately after finding out that Olivia Colman will be starring in a movie adaptation later this year. In this short novel, we are inside a woman’s mind as she takes a solo vacation on the Italian coast, shortly after her adult daughters have moved away to Canada to live with their father and she finds herself alone for the first time in many years. She thinks a lot about her challenging relationship with her daughters and her mother, and becomes extremely fixated on a young mother and her toddler who are vacationing there too. Not much happens plot-wise, but there’s a bit of an ominous undertone throughout – I kept expecting something bad to happen. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away like I was by Ferrante’s wonderful Neapolitan novels.
  • Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl: I admit that I’m biased when I say I loved this book, both because I’m a big fan of Sarah Ruhl’s work as a playwright, and because this is a memoir about her experience with Bell’s Palsy, which I also had almost a decade ago. I related so much to the feelings she describes. This is a beautiful exploration of what it means to be a woman unsmiling in a society that expects the opposite, the slow and nonlinear journey so often found in chronic illness, and how hard it can be to feel joy if you can’t physically express it. Sarah Ruhl’s trademark whimsical style is present here, and there are lots of references to theatre, philosophy, etc. sprinkled throughout, which made me appreciate it even more.

Laura

  • Brat by Andrew McCarthy: Is it terrible that I wanted this actor’s memoir to be more juicy?
  • So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow: This re-mix of Little Women in which the March family are formerly enslaved living in Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island in the waning days of the United States Civil War. To quote Bethany Morrow from an NPR interview in September, “Basically, Little Women is considered historical fiction, but as a Black woman, I have been excluded from that narrative. It seems like the kind of property that no matter how many times it’s revisited, it’s the same. It’s for white girls.” I’m ashamed to say that I knew next to nothing about the Freedmen’s Colony, prior to reading this book, and only had been taught about “The Lost Colony” in regards to Roanoke Island. Through the four sisters’ eyes, we see that being free of enslavement did not mean that life suddenly became easy. The Union is not so altruistic nor is the North a panacea (as Jo and Amy learn when the move to Boston in order for Amy to pursue dancing).
  • Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright: This graphic novel is the story of Maureen and Francine, who, at the start of sixth grade, are finding themselves drifting apart. This book really gets deep into the feelings of isolation as we realize that we’re drifting apart from our best friends, with the tension being added since the best friend in this case is your identical twin. What I appreciate about this book is the characterization and the realistic way the story is told. Even though we hear Maureen’s voice, Francine does not come off as the villain and is a very sympathetic character.
  • While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory: Another great entry from my favorite romance writer!
  • The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray: This is a dramatized account of the life of Belle da Costa Greene, or Belle Marion Greener, the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan who was Black and who, along with other members of her family, passed for white. It was interesting to learn about Belle, though I would like to read an actual biography.
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: There is no one word to describe this intriguing novel, which was the 2018 debut of the prolific Emezi. I really liked it and find myself still thinking about it several weeks later.
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: This is adorable! The illustrations are so colorful.
  • A Big Stink by Edward H. Kafka-Gelbrecht and Sophie Vincent Guy: This silly book about a “meet cute” between a couple who met several decades ago while denying, um, who dealt it, may not be appreciated by everyone’s sense of humor but I was highly amused.
  • The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod: If you like novels about the inner workings of the music industry and strong female friendships, with a bit of romance thrown in, this is the book for you. Technically this is a romance, but it takes a back seat to some of the other relationships, including the burgeoning friendships between protagonist, Toni, and her new bandmates. I really enjoyed this.
  • The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang: This is the third book set in the shared universe started in The Kiss Quotient. While the book does employ several romance tropes, there is also a lot going on here. Anna’s slow realization and acceptance of the fact that she’s on the autism spectrum (something her family doesn’t quite accept) and Quan’s gentle understanding are written in such a beautiful and relatable way.
  • No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib: Set to be published in January, this is the story of Hadi and Sama.  When Hadi is returning to Boston from visiting with his parents in Syria, he’s not allowed to leave Logan Airport, and instead finds himself on a plane bound for Jordan. His wife, Sama, meanwhile, who is pregnant, is at the airport and ends up going into premature labor, still not knowing what’s happened to her husband. The book goes back and forth between Sama and Hadi’s first person points of view in the “present” day (that is early 2017) and third person points of view as they both start their residence in the United States. This descriptive book and its strong sense of time and place is exceptionally heartbreaking.
  • The Babysitters Club Season 2: This show continues to do a great job of adapting the thirty five year old book series to the modern era.
  • SuccessionWhat happens when you put Dallas and Game of Thrones in a blender? JR Ewing has nothing on the despicable members of the Roy family and I am here for it!
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Die-hard fans of the original Ghostbusters (of which I’m one) are once again divided by an entry in the Ghostbusters franchise. I’m of the camp that really didn’t have an issue with the 2016 reboot and even found it entertaining. I really didn’t enjoy this new entry. It was well acted and I think the direction was decent. (Jason Reitman is a good director in his own right. Thank You for Smoking is a great movie.) It was also heartwarming, a sweet coming of age film, drama with funny moments, and, well, boring. Do you know what movie isn’t heartwarming, sweet,  or a drama (or boring, for that matter.)? The original Ghostbusters. The original movie was fun and silly and a surprise when it came out. Even the 2016 reboot which, in my opinion, has been the best of the three follow ups, didn’t have the same surprise element. As fans of, well, anything, I think we need to accept the fact that it’s okay for franchises to end.

Janet

Welcoming Week 2021

Selected Book List

Against The Loveless World:  A Novel by Susan Abulhawa:   2020 Palestine Book Awards Winner 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist

Susan Abulhawa tells the story of Nahr, a Palestinian young woman who grows up in Kuwait, is forced to leave for political reasons, and endures many trials in her quest for a good life.  The difficult geopolitical situation of the Palestinian is beautifully told in this compelling novel.  

Americanah by Chimanandah Ngozie Adichie:  The story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are each other’s childhood sweethearts in Nigeria, and their lives after leaving for America and London respectively.  This book explores questions of authenticity, love, race and identity.  This is a coming of Age Novel by an Orange Prize Winning author.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: The first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents”.  This novel explores issues of sisterhood, aging, immigrant identity and mental illness.  

Create Dangerously:  The Immigrant Artist At Work by Edwidge Danticat: Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat’s belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy.

The Kitchen Without Borders:  Recipes And Stories From Refugee And Immigrant Chefs by Eat Offbeat Chefs: Eat Offbeat is a catering company in New York founded by a brother and sister who came to New York from the Middle East.  The company is staffed by immigrants and refugees who came to this country to have a good life.  This book is filled with stories and recipes from the chefs who come from different countries around the world.   

In The Country We Love:  My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero: The star of Orange Is The New Black has written a beautiful story of the life of her immigrant family in America.

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi: An Afghan American woman returns home to Kabul, the place where her family was slaughtered, to come to terms with her past.  

At The End Of The Century:  The Stories Of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer: JhabvalaNew York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice   

Man Booker Prize winning author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, writes beautifully about English and Indian culture, immigration, life, the blending of cultures. Each short story is self contained like a novel.

The Stationery Shop by Marian Kamali:   Political upheaval in Tehran separates a couple who were planning to marry.  Sixty years later, Roya, who has started a new life for herself in California, will meet Bahman, and hopefully find some answers to what happened on that fateful day.

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya LalliRaina: Anand’s grandmother wants to play matchmaker but Raina is not liking this one bit.  Can she stop this parade of awful blind dates without hurting her grandmother’s feelings?

The Beekeeper Of Aleppo by Christy Leftero: Winner of The Aspen Worlds Literary Prize. 

A beekeeper and his wife are forced to leave their peaceful life in Aleppo in wartime.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli: Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence.  Longlisted for the Booker Prize.

A troubled family on a cross country journey from New York to Arizona; Apacheria, which the Apaches once called home.  They come across migrant children coming from Mexico.  This book contains a melding of inner and outer landscapes.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood: Anwar Faris is fifteen years old in Pakistan in 1995.  Due to the rise of Fundamentalism, his parents decide to move to California.  Anwa will later meet Safwa, who is leaving war torn Baghdad.  The novel focuses on the tension between being devout and not, coming to America, and the relationship between Anwa and Safwa.

Behold The Dreamers:  A Novel by Imbolo Mbue: This is a novel about a young Cameroonian couple making a life in New York just as the Great Recession hits.

This Land Is Our Land:  An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketo Mehta: Mehta explains to us why the west is not being destroyed by immigrants but by the fear of immigrants.  He explains why immigrants are on the move these days; civil strife and climate change are the main reasons.

The Ungrateful Refugee:  What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri: A book that mixes the author’s experience leaving Iran with her family and eventually coming to America with that of other immigrants to the United States.  

A Woman Is No Man:  A Novel by Etaf Rum:  This novel takes us through three generations of Palestinian women; two born in Palestine, one born in the United States.  The author explores the changing values of the generations, and the hopes and dreams of the strong women portrayed in this novel.

The Cooking Gene:  A Journey Through African American Cooking In The Old South  byMichael Twitty: This book is written by a culinary historian who discusses genealogy, slavery , recipes, the meaning of food and so much more.  The melding of race, culture, tradition, and DNA are all part of this journey through the old south of today and yesterday.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for fiction. This book is a letter from a son to his mother who can not read.  The book explores the history of a family rooted in Vietnam and the journey to America.  Questions of identity, history and immigration are explored in this award winning book.

A Door In The Earth by Amy Waldman: This novel explores complicated truths within the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This beautifully illustrated wordless book is good for all ages. The migrants within its pages are represented by animals who must cross the sea. All who read this book will feel for the plight of the migrants as they make their way to safety.

The Dispossessed:  A Story Of Asylum And The U.S. Border And Beyond by John Washington: One man’s saga of seeking asylum, his separation from his daughter.  This book explores the whys of migration and the fact that this is really a stateless world as we are all suffering from the effects of climate change and global injustice.

Crying In H Mart:  A Memoir by Michelle Zauner: Please have a handkerchief ready in case you laugh so much that you cry or cry so much that you laugh when you read this memoir.  A beautiful story of the daughter of a Korean immigrant and an American, her struggle to find an identity, the importance of her mother and of food in her life.  The Korean recipes will make you hungry so be sure to have some snacks on hand.  Recommended for anyone who has ever had a mother and a father and anyone who feels that food is an important part of our life.

Staff Reads August/September 2021

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Debora:

  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho: I’m on a bit of a mission to educate myself about systemic racism and my own white privilege. Acho’s book is super readable and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to begin their own journey of confronting racism. He writes with clarity and compassion. Some examples of his points that really jumped out at me: we’re living in an America that necessitated the Black Lives Matter movement; racism is a pandemic; conversations are an important part of the cure; getting uncomfortable is the point; white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, but rather your skin color hasn’t contributed to the difficulties in your life. Acho also has a website Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with short videos where he has conversations about racism with a variety of people, which I also recommend.
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi takes on the system we live in with this book and invites each of us to do our part to tear it down. I really liked the way he weaves his personal history into the narrative and emphasizes that it isn’t enough to be not racist, but rather we all have to be actively anti-racist. More than once, my mind was blown by his analysis. For example, he explains that racism isn’t the result of ignorance or hate, but rather self-interest. Racist policies are put in place by white policymakers and then racism is used to justify those policies. Essentially, racism is a problem of power. It’s the kind of turning on its head concept that was so engaging throughout the book. That said, it’s not an easy to read book. It took time, concentration, and commitment to power through – and he also speaks to that when he says that being an anti-racist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: This novel was a wonderful example of how a skilled author transports readers through worldbuilding. Gilbert creates the character of Vivian, now 95 years old, as she tells her story of living in the 1940s New York City theater world with her Aunt Peg. Vivian’s voice is smart and often funny and completely unapologetic as she recounts her sexual adventures, late nights with her new showgirl friend, and the life-changing mistake that flattens her and sends her home to upstate New York. It did run long – almost 500 pages – but was worth it.
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Wow. This was a truly amazing historic fiction read. Set in 1957 Madrid, during the dictatorship of General Franco, the main character is 18 year old Texan Daniel Matheson, who is visitng with his oil tycoon parents, just as Spain has reopened to American tourists. Daniel’s love – and skill – is photography and he learns quickly that he needs to be very careful about what he takes pictures of because the dreaded Guardia Civil soldiers are always watching. Daniel meets and falls in love with hotel employee Ana, who lives with her siblings in a one room shack on the outskirts of the city. The novel is interspersed with oral history reports and media excerpts documenting the horrors of living under Franco’s authoritarian rule. It’s a gripping story.

Kim

Deb

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, narrated by the author: This memoir is very reminiscent of Educated and Hillbilly Elegy. This tells the story of a family with an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother, their children and their life on the move. The resilience of kids growing up in some seriously unstable conditions and circumstances is quite astounding.
  • Fly Away by Kristin Hannah: This is #2 in the Firefly Lane series. It’s the continuing story that picks up immediately after the ending of the first one. It leans toward chick-lit. It was fine. The first in the series was better, but it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction, Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale or The Great Alone are fantastic!
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, narrated by Dion Graham: This is the prequel to teen fiction The Hate U Give, and describes the backstory before the characters in THUG are born. It follows Maverick Carter, a 17 year old guy flirting with gang life and responsibility.
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gaige, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Will Damron: This was a decent novel of a couple and their 2 kids who scrap land life in Connecticut for a year on a sailboat in the Caribbean. While less ominous, it does unfold mysteriously in a Gone Girl kinda way with dual narrators telling the story, each from their own perspective. It was a good story and it wraps up and then the actual ending is so random. It would have been cleaner if it ended 20 minutes sooner, in my opinion.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon, narrated by Elena Garnu: This is a novel of teen fiction that tells the story of a High-school aged Latina named Liliana who participates in the METCO program between Boston and “Westburg”. She tells of her trials and tribulations at a new school where she is a minority and talks about her parents’ struggles with immigration. Liliana is a likable and empathetic character and she gives great perspective throughout the story. Quite enjoyable.

Ashley

  • We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin: I love a gothic, atmospheric mystery, and I could not put this one down. I was completely surprised by the twist in the middle, even though I felt like I shouldn’t have been, and stayed up late reading to the end.
  • More Than Fluff by Valentine Madeline: This is the cutest little picture book about a duckling who is so fluffy everyone wants to hug, squeeze and pet it. We learn about consent in an adorable fashion.
  • Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly Whittemore: Another gothic mystery, told in the present as well as flashbacks to our protagonist’s time with a cult in rural Maine as a child. She did something bad all those years ago, and it has come back to haunt her. What did she do? And why does someone care so much now?
  • What’s Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh: A young girl is kidnapped from her fundamentalist religious cult, and when she is let go, no one believes her. Now as an adult, other girls are missing, and an investigator asks for her help. THis was an excellent mystery with great characters.
  • The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry: Unfortunately, I’m just enough older than the author that even though we’re both “Millenials” I was in college by the time she was in high school, so we don’t really have the same pop culture touchstones. Most of the shows she watched and referenced as being formative in her experiences growing up and coming out were popular with young teens when I was already an “adult’. I was looking forward to reading and reminiscing about pop culture from my youth, but I found myself not caring or engaging when most of the essays focused around shows I didn’t watch like Gossip Girl and The OC.
  • Unpregnant on HBO Max: I watched this on a flight from Seattle, and besides the fact the teenagers were played by actors in their mid twenties…. It was surprisingly good. It was cute with fun and quirky supporting characters and you could tell it was written by women.

Louise

  • The Very Best of the Best: 35 years Of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Edited by Gardner Dozois: Gardner Dozois won the Hugo Award for best professional editor fifteen times in seventeen years. This book really does contain the best of the best. Every story is a work of art and, although I have not quite finished the full collection, I have not encountered one story that I did not like, that I chose to skip over. This is a great book to read if you want some really beautifully executed short stories that will each leave you satisfied and glad that you had Gardner Dozois as your editor.
  • Blindsight by Peter Watts: This is a really rollicking ride with a very interesting space crew. There is a vampire in charge, a woman who has four distinct persons sharing her body, and a narrator whose brain has been altered so that he has some rather superhuman mental prowess but has lost some of his humanness as a result. Don’t get me started on the aliens. Yikes. I really enjoyed this novel and plan to read more by Peter Watts. I do not plan on going to outer space with a vampire at the helm, however.
  • Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: This is such a beautiful novel. If you are looking for lyrical, well researched, historical fiction with a strong female main character, look no further. Kaitlyn Greenidge based Libertie and her mother on Susan Smith Mckinney Steward, the first black female doctor in New York State whose daughter married the son of an Episcopal bishop from Haiti. Libertie’s hometown is based on the real nineteenth century community of Weeksville, a town of free blacks in Brooklyn.
  • Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This is a wordless picture book that tells the story of migrants. They are portrayed as animals and the illustrations are gorgeous. This book is classified as a children’s book, but I think anybody will be the richer for experiencing its pages. The animals are sympathetic characters and they are risking their lives crossing the ocean just as migrants do every day. I think that this book is beautiful and healing and I recommend this to anybody who wants to be wowed by the power of illustration to tell a story.
  • Rx: A Graphic Memoir by Rachel Lindsay: This autobiographical memoir tells of Rachel Lindsay’s conundrum when she gets a corporate job to help pay her health insurance so that she can pay for her prescriptions. Rachel is diagnosed as bipolar and finds herself assigned to the Pristiq pharmaceutical account. This is a medication that she herself has taken. She feels very uncomfortable in this position. In her heart of hearts, she wants to be an illustrator. The discomfort builds and Rachel struggles to come to terms with her truth in this graphic novel. This is a quick read and a good one.
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: I came late to this classic graphic novel about Marjane’s life growing up in Iran. I can not say enough good things about this book. This is a novel of a lovely family and the difficulties that they face under the repressive regime in Iran. Marjane literally paints the picture for us and I basically could not put this book down. Wonderful drawings, compelling story and a lovable main character make for a fabulous read.
  • A Lot Like Christmas: An Expanded, Updated Edition of Connie Willis’ Miracle And Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis: Anybody tired of all of the news lately? Need an escape? Some humor? Some magic? A few hilarious aliens? This is the book for you. I am not a huge fan of Christmas stories per se but this book is so much fun! Connie Willis is a science fiction writer but she is more like the science fiction of I Dream of Jeannie (remember that show?) because her stories are light, funny, and often, very romantic. This is like a bunch of little romcoms with a light sci-fi twist. Sheer delight!
  • Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Even the title of this memoir is beautiful. Michelle Zauner, lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast, is an amazing writer. The book celebrates her mother, her Korean heritage, and the love that can sustain us in life. You will get hungry because Michelle describes food in great vivid detail and she also tells us about grief. Please note that this book does deal with illness and death and if this is not something that you want to read about, please see my Connie Willis recommendation above.

Laura

  • Beth and Amy by Virginia Kantra: I liked this modern retelling of Little Women about the two March sisters who, in my opinion, are given short shrift in terms of character development in the original novel. This was a pleasant surprise after I had mixed feelings about the first book, Meg and Jo.
  • Happy Endings by Thien Kim-Lam: This inclusive second chance romance is very sex positive and a lot of fun.
  • Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original edited by Sara Franklin: I became aware of Edna Lewis after reading Michael Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene and I’m embarrassed that it took me that long. Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia, which was founded by Black families freed from slavery and was instrumental in awareness of soul food as well as the food to table movement. This collection of essays really highlights a woman who should be as well known as Julia Child.
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Beautiful and detailed memoir of Michelle and her complicated relationship with her mother, who is dying of cancer. This started out as a piece for The New Yorker which will give you an idea of the book as a whole.
  • Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn: I finally finished the novels about the core family.
    • On the Way to the Wedding: The second youngest sibling, Gregory, finally gets his moment to shine as he romances Lucy. I was pleased that Katherine from my favorite book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me played a large role in this one. (And will be in the upcoming season of the show.) The second epilogue was a tad dark compared to the other epilogues, though it does have a happy ending.
    • The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After: This is mainly just a collection of the second epilogues that appear in later editions of the books so I was already familiar with most of them. However, it was great to finally hear/read the second epilogues of To Sir Phillip with Love and When He Was Wicked. Francesca, the heroine, of the latter, barely gets any time in the other novels so it was nice to have her front and center once again. Matriarch Violet Bridgerton also gets her own story in this collection.
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley Ford: Compelling, sad, and hopeful, this memoir by a noted magazine is a quick but tough read. At the start of the book, Ford learns that her father who has been incarcerated most of her life, is getting released which serves a starting point for remembering her childhood and her relationships, most notably with her mother. I definitely recommend Ford’s interview on NPR for more context.
  • Black Widow: I mainly enjoyed this movie which gives a bit more backstory to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and am excited about the future of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. I just can’t help wishing that it came up before Avengers: Endgame
  • The Love Boat: This actually isn’t the first time that I’ve mentioned this show in this column, but I am binge watching it for the first time in 6-7 years. Believe me when I say that a lot of this hasn’t aged well though I was surprised that there were some (and I do mean some) story lines that were progressive for its time. The news being what it’s been, The Love Boat has been comfort food for my brain and I actually like the relationships between the core characters (at least in the first seven seasons.) Also this interview with the original cast on Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Stars in the House, streamed only three months before Gavin Macleod passed away, is probably one of the sweetest reunion interviews I’ve ever seen. (And being the retro TV fan that I am, I watch a lot of those types of reunions.)

Welcoming Week at Waltham Public Library

Lee abajo en español

Waltham Public Library joins libraries across Massachusetts in celebrating Welcoming Week, part of nonprofit Welcoming America‘s nationwide call to “bring together neighbors of all backgrounds to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity.” The annual celebration takes place this year from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 19.

Welcoming Week aligns with Waltham Public Library’s mission to “provide[s] the city’s multi-ethnic, economically diverse population with popular informational, recreational and educational library resources, and services” and to “make those resources accessible to all with friendliness and efficiency.”

In recognition of Welcoming Week, we will:

  • offer an outdoor program “Haitian Folk Dance for Everyone with Jean Appollon” on Wednesday, September 15 at 5:30PM
  • share a Welcoming Week booklist on our blog 
  • feature a display of titles that joyfully reflect our multicultural, multilingual Waltham community
  • provide citizenship and Know Your Rights materials in our Literacy Classroom
  • highlight our world languages collection and Library ELL programs
  • let patrons know about Library staff who speak or are learning languages other than English

Additionally, our Children’s Department will:

  • feature books of welcome and inclusion in our Picture Book section
  • promote our world languages collection, Launchpads, and Wonderbooks in other languages on social media
  • share Welcoming Week content on Instagram including a welcome song in multiple languages, “The More We Get Together” in Sign Language, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Arabic and English
  • feature Welcoming Week themes in our virtual programs (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose, and Baby Storytime)
  • offer a Welcoming Week challenge for Lego Club on September 15

Beyond programming, we rededicate ourselves this week to the ongoing responsibility of listening and learning from our whole community. American poet Langston Hughes once wrote about the power of readers and dreamers who help “make our world anew.” Whether you are new to the Library, or revisiting us with new perspective in this extraordinary time, Waltham Public Library invites you to share our work to make this a welcoming, safe, and vital space for everyone. Like Hughes, we “reach out our dreams to you.”

~Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator


La Semana de Bienvenida en la biblioteca pública de Waltham

La Biblioteca Pública de Waltham se une a las bibliotecas de Massachusetts para celebrar la Semana de Bienvenida, parte del llamado nacional de Welcoming America para <<reunir a vecinos de todos los orígenes para construir conexiones sólidas y afirmar la importancia de lugares acogedores e inclusivos para lograr la prosperidad colectiva>>. La celebración anual se lleva a cabo este año desde el viernes 10 de septiembre hasta el domingo 19 de septiembre.

La Semana de Bienvenida se alinea con la misión de la Biblioteca Pública de Waltham de <<proporcionar a la población multiétnica y económicamente diversa de la ciudad recursos y servicios bibliotecarios informativos, recreativos y educativos populares>> y <<hacer que esos recursos sean accesibles para todos con amabilidad y eficiencia.>>

En reconocimiento a la Semana de Bienvenida, planeamos:

  • ofrecer un programa al aire libre <<Danza folclórica haitiana para todos con Jean Appollon>> el miércoles 15 de septiembre a las 5:30 p.m.
  • compartir una lista de libros de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestro blog
  • presentar una exhibición de títulos que reflejan alegremente Waltham multicultural y multilingüe
  • proporcionar materiales sobre ciudadanía y conocer sus derechos en nuestro Literacy Classroom
  • destacar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo y los programas ELL de la biblioteca
  • informar a los usuarios sobre el personal de la biblioteca que habla o está aprendiendo otros idiomas además del inglés

Además, nuestro Departamento de Niños va a:

  • Presentar libros de bienvenida e inclusión en nuestra sección de Libros de imágenes.
  • Promocionar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo, Launchpads y Wonderbooks en otros idiomas en las redes sociales.
  • compartir el contenido de la Semana de Bienvenida en Instagram, incluida una canción de bienvenida en varios idiomas, “Cuanto más nos juntamos” en lenguaje de señas y “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” en árabe e inglés.
  • incluir temas de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestros programas virtuales (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose y Baby Storytime)
  • ofrecer un desafío de la Semana de Bienvenida para Lego Club el 15 de septiembre

Más allá de la programación, esta semana nos dedicamos nuevamente a la responsabilidad continua de escuchar y aprender de toda nuestra comunidad. El poeta estadounidense Langston Hughes escribió una vez sobre el poder de los lectores y soñadores que ayudan a <<hacer nuestro mundo de nuevo>>. Ya sea que sea nuevo en la biblioteca o que vuelva a visitarnos con una nueva perspectiva en este momento extraordinario, la biblioteca pública de Waltham lo invita a compartir nuestro trabajo para hacer de este un espacio acogedor, seguro y vital para todos. Al igual que Hughes, <<les extendemos nuestros sueños>>.

~ Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator

Staff Reads July 2021

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

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Laura

  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: I really enjoyed this follow up to Henry’s Beach Read. The characters in Henry’s books always seem like real people and it was fun to vicariously travel with the two main characters.
  • Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin: A simple summary of this book would just say it’s about the year 1948 and the last time Cleveland won the World Series. But, it’s so much more, including the story of Larry Doby, the first Black player to play in the American Leagues, who made his debut with Cleveland fewer than three months after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I highly recommend this interview with the author, conducted by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • Harriet the Spy, The Long Secretand Sport by Louise Fitzhugh: I re-read this series after reading the fascinating biography of Louise Fitzhugh. It was interesting using Fitzhugh’s life as a context for these books. Harriet the Spy held up really well, and so did The Long Secret (mainly). Sport didn’t really work for me. There was a potential for a great book in there, but it was no Harriet!
  • The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall: When I was in my mid-late 20s and noticed my closet filling up with bridesmaid dresses, I joked about starting a professional bridesmaid business. I even made gag business cards for a fake business, “Always a Bridesmaid” that I handed out at weddings. (The tag line: “Got no friends? Hate your siblings? Next time hire the attendants!”) A friend of mine remembered those days and sent me this book as a gift in which the main character does just that. The book is fun, if a little light, and I appreciate that the main relationship between is the friendship that blossoms between the main character and one of her “clients” and the romance with a minor character is secondary.
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez: Compelling book that tells stories about two men in England a few decades apart: Norman, who emigrates from Jamaica, hoping to find a better life and Jesse, who has recently left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and coming to terms as an ex-Witness who is gay.
  • Color Me In by Natasha Diaz: I loved this coming of age story about Nevaeh Levitz, who has a white Jewish father and a Black mother who doesn’t feel as if she quite belongs in either world, especially after her parents separate. The supporting characters are also supporting in the literal sense as Nevaeh deals with her new reality.
  •  Loki: The characters and acting on this show are fun and intriguing but, so far, this hasn’t hooked me in quite the same way that Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did.
  • Kim’s ConvenienceI love this sitcom about a family owning a convenience store in Toronto. I was very disappointed to discover that it’s been canceled.

Deb

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell: I really enjoyed this evolution of a young woman who grows up in a swamp and learns so much from the nature all around her.  This is tied in alongside the death of a prominent community member. It feels like part memoir and part murder mystery all rolled in to one novel.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: This is my 2nd 5-star (Goodreads) review of 2021. This is the latest book by Andy Weir, author of The Martian, which was also made into a movie by the same title starring Matt Damon. (As movies made from books go, I think The Martian was really well done! A movie version of Project Hail Mary is also already in the works.) Project Hail Mary slowly unfolds to reveal a scientist on a desperate space mission to save the Earth. This has a LOT of similarities to The Martian in terms of the space setting, the constant crisis mode and problem-solving for the scientist and definitely the humor. I laughed out loud quite regularly at the trials and tribulations as well as some of the perspectives offered. There’s also an interesting linguistic study going on when the scientist finds himself needing to communicate with an unexpected cohort. As I did with The Martian, I found myself suggesting this title to anyone who appreciates space or science or technology & humor. I could not wait to pick it back up and find out what would happen next!
  • The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, audiobook narrated by Madeleine Maby: Inspired by a true story, I enjoyed this historical fiction that tells the story of a French Jewish woman forced to flee Paris in the early days of WWII and how she finds herself a resistance forger and the resulting journey she takes all because of a book.
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: After really enjoying The Nightingale and The Great Alone, this was the next Kristin Hannah book I picked up. I liked it. I would call it chick-lit; Some of my friends called it depressing. There are sad parts but I wouldn’t characterize it as depressing. It’s a story of two friends and all that happens to them together over the course of 30 years of school and boyfriends and careers, etc… I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not amazing, but it’s good enough that I’m reading the next book in the series: Fly Away.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I have a different opinion of this book than almost everyone I know: Eh. It was ok. Almost everything about this book seemed to be shallow in a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none sorta way. So many topics to cover: race/colorism, domestic violence, LGTBQ… it was all glossed over and one-note. I never really felt invested in what’s going to happen next. I always find myself annoyed with stories based on lies & secrets – just come clean! – but I guess if everyone was honest, there’d be no drama, so no book.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne: A biology professor gets himself stuck in the middle of a murder mystery… or did he? It’s a decent and creepy story that mystery fans with a nature or science interest will enjoy.
  • Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, audiobook narrated by a whole cast of characters: This debut novel strikes me as a take on the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway from her vacation in Aruba. The multiple narrators were interesting, but for the most part didn’t actually add anything to the story. I usually really like multi-narrators, but this just didn’t serve much of a purpose. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the murder victim’s younger sister. The scenery was cool. The ending is so-so. Overall, it was just fine, nothing great.

Debora

  • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn: I couldn’t put this book down. Literally. I brought it with me to appointments, read in between work and chores, and stayed up late to finish it. True to my WWII obsession, this was set in England at the super secret Bletchley Park, where a beehive of brains worked to crack the German military codes. The story follows three women – Osla, Mab, and Beth – and toggles between 1940 and 1947. And for fans of all things royal, the future Prince Philip makes the scene. Highly recommend.
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True: We hosted author Sylvia True on Wednesday, July 14 at 7PM on YouTube: Where Madness Lies, so I wanted to read her book. Although it’s a novel, the author uses her own family’s experience to tell a compelling story. Set in two timelines, the story focuses on two family members who are experiencing mental illness; Rigmor in 1934 Germany and her great niece, Sabine, in 1984 Belmont, MA. The Nazi party has come into power as Rigmor, a Jew, seeks treatment for her symptoms in a high-end psychiatric clinic. The treatments are purported to be effective and humane, yet the novel uncovers a dark Nazi eugenics scheme. In 1984, Sabine checks herself into McLean for treatment of severe depression, only to learn that she will be separated from her infant during her stay. The link between both women is Rigmor’s sister, Inga, who is Sabine’s grandmother. Although I found the dialogue sometimes unrealistic and stilted, the story was compelling and thought provoking.
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner: This debut novel has received a lot of buzz and for good reason – it’s fantastic. Another two-timeline book (clearly, they are a thing), the author successfully creates two worlds, that of late 1700s London and present day London. The story follows three women – Caroline, Nella, and Eliza. Caroline is a former history major who never followed her dream to pursue an advanced degree in Cambridge, England, but instead married her college sweetheart and settled for a different path. She travels to London in the wake of discovering her husband’s infidelity. Nella is a 1790s apothecary who dispenses poisons to women who want to kill a man who has wronged them; she meets 12 year old Eliza when Eliza is sent by her mistress to retrieve the poison needed to kill her master. The plot is riveting and has elements of tension in both timelines. Highly readable and engrossing.

Ashley

  • Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life by Gavin Larsen: This is a short, easy read, and I finished it in one day. If you’re looking for backstage drama, i’d choose Dancing on My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland. However, if you curious about what it’s like to be a dancer minus the drug fueled drama, i’d pick up this achingly beautiful read.
  • Turning Pointe: How a Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet From Itself by Chloe Angyal: I feel like the author bit off a bigger piece than she was able to write about. While some aspects were thoroughly researched, some important topics were only glanced at. The author did a comprehensive job of explaining how the way men are treated in the ballet world has led to such rampant misogyny. (there aren’t a lot of them, so they’re treated very special from a young age). The author also spent a little time exploring what ballet is like for non white people, but didn’t go too far into that. However where the author failed, was addressing gender identity and sexuaity in ballet. Ballet is very heteronormative. Every story ballet is about a heterosexual relationship, every ballet features male/female partnering. Female dancers are afraid to come out as queer/bi/or lesbian, becuase they have no role models to follow and are afraid it will impact their careers and casting in ballets.We are finally starting to see ballet represent more than just straight people, and American Ballet Theater and Queer Women Dancers are at the forefront of this movement. Recently ABT has premiered three works featuring smae sex couples. This is a big deal, and hopefully just the beginning. I was disappointed that this was not mentioned in this book.
  • Long Lost by Jaqueline West: This was a sweet middle grade read about a girl who is forced to move to a small town in Massachusetts, where she discovers a book in her public library that seems to be telling a story that happened right in her new town. Is it real? What really happened?
  • Madam by Phoebe Wynne: While a pretty slow read, it was super atmospheric.
  • Home Before Dark season two on Apple TV: I feel like i’ve been waiting forever for season 2, and I’m so excited it’s back! A young girl reporter, solving mysteries on an island in Washington state.

Louise

  • Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergei Dyachenko: This science fiction novel is in the Ukranian genre known as fantasia.  Fantasia encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror and folkloric traditions.  There is a school of magic but no, this is nothing like Harry Potter, nor is it quite like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.  However, fans of both of these titles may enjoy this.  Also, I daresay, Donna Tartt readers may enjoy this as well.
    There is magic in this book but it is rather dark and extremely mysterious.  Our main character, Sasha Samokhina,  gets drawn into going to a school called The Institute of Special Technologies.  She has literally no choice here.  To turn this down means that harm will come to her family.  (A little bit of Sopranos here, except with dark magic and a lot of intellectual concepts).  Setting plays a role in this novel in a most intriguing way as well.
    At the start of the novel, Sasha is very excited to be going to the seashore in Crimea with her mother.  They stay in a hotel and have to share their lodgings with another couple.  They have a kitchen and a bath.  They can do their own cooking.  Every day, they go down to the seashore.  Sasha sometimes walks to the market to get some groceries for dinner.  Then she notices a man in dark glasses following her.  She is immediately alarmed.  Her mother does not seem to see any danger here.
    It turns out that this stranger is Farit Kozhenikov and he wants Sasha to get up at 4AM and go swimming in the nude from the shore to the buoy in the sea.  If she does not do this, something awful might happen, he tells her.  Sasha unhappily complies.  When she comes out of the water, she vomits up gold coins.  (Here are some of the folklore components).  When she oversleeps one day, there are consequences, but Farit tells her that they are not as bad as they will be if this happens again.
    This book had me magnetically drawn from start to finish.  Things get ‘curiouser and curiouser’ in this novel and I hope that you love it as much as I did.
  • The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson :This is a very interesting novel about a young man who takes a test to see if he can fit into one of The Affinities.  Meier Klein is the creator of the affinities.  There are twenty two and they are all named after letters of the Phoenician alphabet.  One goes through psychosocial testing, brain mapping, blood testing, and genetic testing.  However, some people will not fit into any affinities.  Down the road, this will be a problem as those left out feel, well, left out.
    Our main character, Adam Fisk, successfully places in the Tau.  He loves his new affinity family who help him with everything; companionship, housing, career, sense of family.  He is very content.  Until he isn’t.  This is a great look at a utopian scheme that goes awry, the hunger for belonging, modern loneliness, and the search for meaning.
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: This beautifully written novel has great, well developed characters, beautiful writing and a very moving and timeless story.  Makai is focusing on the Aids crisis in the eighties in Chicago and also switches to the year 2015 to show how some of the survivors of this incredibly painful and tragic time are coping.  Set in Chicago and in France, this is a book to read if you love beautiful, award worthy, compelling and sophisticated fiction.
  • Philip K Dick A Comics Biography by Mauro Marchesi(illustrator) and Laurent Queyessi: This is an easy read and a fascinating introduction to the life of Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (The film  Blade Runner was based on this novel), the short story Minority Report (The film Minority Report was based on this short story), and numerous other works.  Philip K. Dick was a preemie who had a twin sister who died at birth.  This was not an auspicious beginning.  His parents got divorced and he was raised by his mother who did not seem like a very sympathetic character in this graphic novel.
    Philip had five different marriages, a drug problem, some paranoia, and an incredible gift for writing.  He graduated from the same high school as fellow writer Ursula Leguin and they were friends.  Unfortunately, Philip would take methamphetamines to help himself produce more work.  I suppose he succeeded there as he was very prolific.  I don’t think that this helped his mental health or his relationships, unfortunately.  There were times when he felt he was leading parallel lives in different universes.  He questioned the nature of reality.  Who is to say what is real and what is not after all?

    I picked up this book after reading Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? which is dystopian, irreverent, and rather hilarious and brilliant all at the same time.  This is a great introduction to a brilliant but troubled author.  The illustrations work well and I think that the team who put this graphic novel together did a great job.
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